In a highly competitive business world, independent consultants know that continuing education enhances their abilities, broadens their areas of expertise, and boosts their professional reputation. Many busy professionals are turning to online training courses to receive these benefits, thanks to their “work from anywhere” convenience and often affordable price points. However, with so many options available, it can be hard to know which training option is right for you.
Keep these considerations in mind choosing the online training course that’s right for your professional development.
1. Determine Your Goals
As with any major undertaking, consider your goals before signing up for a course. You may wish to ask yourself:
- Do you expect the training course to significantly impact your core business competency, or allow you to broaden your professional skillset?
- Do you want to learn a brand new skill, or expand your knowledge of a current ability?
- Do you expect to receive academic credit towards a degree program?
- Do you want to learn a new software application that is desirable in your field of work?
It’s also important to ask yourself how much time and commitment you will be able to dedicate to your professional training. These questions can help you determine where you need to begin your search.
2. Select the Right Institution
Online training courses for professional development are available from a number of different types of institutions, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The training school that’s right for you will depend on factors such as your specific goals, your future ambitions, and financial and time restraints. Your main options include:
- Accredited college or university. For those considering pursuing an academic degree or certification, professional development courses taken at an accredited university may be able to earn college credits. Today, many top universities offer flexible online programs, or hybrid “executive” programs that offer online training plus in-person night or weekend coursework.
- Specialized training institute. Often the most economical option, specialized training schools offer a high degree of flexibility in course options. Many of these online outlets offer hard skills training in your vertical as well as generalized experience in areas such as Microsoft Office, digital competencies and more.
- Vendor-specific courses. This option provides highly specialized training in a particular product – often computer hardware or software – directly from the manufacturer or vendor of the product. The course subject matter is very narrow, but will generally give in-depth instruction and training directly from an instructor certified and employed by the vendor.
3. Choose the Right Format
Online professional development classes are offered in a number of different formats that fit varying academic levels, learning styles, and personal schedules.
Some are highly regulated, with specific set class times that you must attend. These courses are often taught by an instructor or professor via live video feed, and participation and interaction are expected. Other online courses use a more free-form approach that allows participants to work around their own schedules, learning the material via text and pre-recorded videos. In this format, the only interaction with the instructor may be through email. In others, one might pay to listen to lectures or lessons and complete assignments on their own, with no direct instructor interaction.
Carefully take into account your schedule and learning type to figure out which format works best for you.
4. Find the Right Fit for Your Skill Level
Make an honest assessment of your skill level and competency in the area you plan on studying, either through self-evaluation or from a third party. You may find that you know more – or less – about the subject than you assumed. This will help you find the right course level for your needs, and prevent you from wasting your time and money on a course that is either too advanced for you to follow or too basic for you to benefit from.
Don’t rely on the title alone; thoroughly read the course description and objectives of each class before choosing. What one instructor or institution may call “intermediate,” another may consider “advanced.”
5. Do Your Research
Before enrolling in any online professional development training course, thoroughly research the course, the instructor, and the institution. Talk to colleagues in your field, check online review sites, or solicit feedback from social media groups and your network of contacts. Professional training courses are an investment of both your time and your money, so it’s in your best interest to find an option that is reputable, respected, and a valuable investment.
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